This story also appeared on the Daily Campus.

SMU MilVets strive to create community

By: Santiago Martinez

24 February 2013

In March 2003, missile attacks rained down on Baghdad marking the beginning of a U.S. led campaign to topple the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In April 2003 U.S. forces advanced into central Baghdad. During these events I had been sworn into the Delayed Entry Program with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Although I never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, most of my veteran friends did, and were deployed more than once. When I got out of the Marines in 2008, I immediately enrolled into community college where I first experienced the difficulties in transitioning from the military to college.

Since the Post-9/11 GI Bill was signed into law in 2008, student veterans claiming educational benefits rose from 523,344 in 2007 to 923,836 in 2011 (VA data). A recent study by Operation College Promise and the Pat Tillman Foundation recently cited by the New York Times suggests student-veterans thrive in supportive schools.

Eric Anderson, assistant to the director of the Maguire Center for Ethics. said, “When I got out of the Marines in 2005, I had a tough time transitioning from combat to the classroom. I couldn’t relate to the traditional students I was surrounded by and it wasn’t until I got involved with the veteran community at TCU that I found my stride.” The SMU MilVet organization is truly focused on replacing the peer group veterans lose when their service is over.

Many veterans on campus praise SMU for providing support and resources on student veteran issues, such as help with complex financial aid.

Since the SMU MilVets began in fall 2011, we have focused on building a support network for SMU veterans – composed of undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff. We feel that the best way to build a strong group is by focusing our energy on helping others through service projects.

The service project the SMU MilVets have been most enthusiastic about is organizing military care package drives. We’ve sent more than 150 care packages averaging about 50 per semester. We solicited unit addresses for loved ones serving overseas from SMU students, faculty and staff members during each care package drive. This last fall, we sent packages to a Marine Unit deployed in Afghanistan, where a brother of one of our SMU MilVet students is serving. Andy Davis, U.S. Marine veteran and engineering student said, “Receiving care packages makes you feel appreciated, as if someone actually cares about what you’re going through.” And the care package drive is a service event we will continue to do until there are no more of our brothers and sisters in combat. This semester we will have another focus.

David Ford, Air Force veteran and current president of the SMU MilVets said, “This semester we want to be more active among SMU’s student population in hopes of connecting with them.” Ford is a junior studying computer engineering at the Lyle School of Engineering.

This past Valentine’s Day, the organization decided to sell Sprinkles Cupcakes at the Flagpole. That was our way of saying, “We’re here and we want to be a part of your community.”

Martinez is a senior majoring in communication studies.
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